An Executive Power News Sandwich

Speaking before the Committee on the Judiciary in the House of Representatives earlier this month, liberal law professor Jonathan Turley testified that President Barack Obama “has transformed the executive into ‘what many once called an imperial presidency model of largely unchecked authority.'” Writing for the Washington Times, James Richard Edwards describes three types of abuses about which Turley testified.

First, Obama gave a “Non-Defense Order,” refusing to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court. Apparently this was the first time in 40 years that a president has signed such an order. Second, Turley testified, not only has President Obama contradicted his prior opposition to presidential “signing statements,” he has also used these statements in an unprecedented way. Typically, writes Edwards, the statements, which are not supposed to be binding anyway, have been used by presidents to “direct agencies how to execute and interpret the law.” Obama has, in addition, “direct[ed] agencies NOT to enforce a law or certain parts of laws.” Finally, testified Turley, Obama has expanded the use of non-enforcement orders in an unprecedented way: “Obama’s main problem,” explained Turley, “is that he does not refuse to enforce laws because he believes them to be unconstitutional. He has invoked a far broader authority to tailor laws based on his individual judgment and discretion.”

It is terrible that Obama has abused his executive authority. However, it is great to see a liberal legal academic speak out about these abuses. Let’s hope that Congress, after taking the time to hear testimony on these abuses, will finally do something about them.

While a liberal academic cautions us about Obama’s abuse of executive power, an allegedly conservative political commentator, David Brooks, writes a New York Times op-ed arguing that the executive branch doesn’t have enough power! Brooks laments that, given the gridlock in Washington, D.C., “[i]t’s possible that years will go by without the passage of a major piece of legislation.” You mean, another piece of legislation like Obamacare, Mr. Brooks? Thanks, but no thanks. Brooks says he’s also concerned that the executive lacks the “flexibility” to deal with “adjustments” that need to be made to legislation. You know, the type of legislation with pages numbering in the thousands, physically impossible for one human being to read before it’s time to vote. The lack of flexibility comes, says Brooks, because of what he calls “interest group capitalism”–lobbyists, as well as “activist groups and ideological enforcers” to which members of Congress are beholden. The way to address the problems of these “rentier groups,” as Brooks calls them, is to bypass them, by giving more power to the executive branch.

We don’t need bigger government. We need more unified authority. Take power away from the rentier groups who dominate the process. Allow people in those authorities to exercise discretion. Find a president who can both rally a majority, and execute a policy process.

But the alternative Brooks offers–Legislative stalemate vs. a stronger executive–is a false one. A third, superior option is limiting our government to its proper function: protecting individual rights–that is, protecting citizens from the initiation of physical force, and from fraud. If protecting rights was all government could do, there would not be “rentier groups” to which Congress was beholden, because Congress wouldn’t have the power to grant favors.

After reading an op-ed like that, from an alleged conservative columnist, I could use a little comic relief. Thankfully Saturday Night Live has been providing a good dose of that lately, with much of the humor being at Barack Obama’s expense. A few weeks ago, after it became clear that we would not be able to keep our plans, despite what Obama told us, SNL ran an ad for “Paxil: Second Term Strength…the antidepressant for presidents feeling low.” And last week they had a skit I particularly enjoyed, a mock panel discussion show called “How’s He Doing,” in which the “impartial” panelists made clear there was pretty much nothing Obama could do that would cause him to lose their support.

I enjoy seeing anyone do a great job mocking Obama, but it’s even more satisfying to see it done by a liberal media outlet like SNL.

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